Alacra Pulse Prognosis Update: Research in Downward Motion

Includes: AAPL, BBRY, GOOG
by: Alacra Pulse Check Blog

by Angus Robertson

It’s not very often that sell side analysts admit they were wrong, so give RBC Capital’s Mike Abramsky credit for taking it on the chin for Research in Motion (RIMM), which plunged 14% today after announcing lower sales forecasts.

We have noted Abramsky’s consistently bullish stance on RIM in the face of mounting concerns over RIM’s strategy and growing competition. Back in August 2009, he had a $150 target on the company. He wrote in a research note last April that RIM’s then new OS and browser had a more consumer-oriented interface that “may rival iPhone (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) but appears uniquely BlackBerry.” BlackBerry 6 may offer “RIM the opportunity to narrow competitive gaps and sustain leadership.” In July, he had a price target of $90 and a Top Pick rating, which he retained until today.

Now he has cut his target to $55 and lowered his rating to Sector Perform.

“Our Top Pick rating was based on 1) Fundamental value not reflected in 8x valuation; 2) New products restoring momentum and investor confidence,” he said in a note sent to clients on Friday.

We were wrong, as mis-execution has undermined sentiment recovery. Our rating reflects our view that RIM shares will likely remain pressured pending improved investor visibility on the company’s earning momentum. – Mike Abramsky, RBC Capital Markets

“PlayBook is a promising tablet contender, but RIM bears some responsibility for its less-than-favourable debut, confusion over its positioning and criticisms it was not fully ready for market,” Abramsky said.

“We believe this further damages already low credibility, making them the ‘poster boy’ for a show-me story from here, with little or no credibility given for their $7.50 F12 EPS outlook,” he wrote in a note. “Given how pessimistic investors were already, this will more likely sustain pessimism than alter already polarized views — and may overshadow any pending announcements expected next week at RIM’s analyst day.”

The median 12-month price target of 13 analysts who have adjusted their targets since yesterday stands at $55, down from $63 a month ago. The median has fallen to $57.50 from $66.20 and compares with today’s close of $48.65. Targets range from $35 to $77.

RIM said BlackBerry shipments will be at the lower end of the range of 13.5 million to 14.5 million it projected last month, and the mix of devices will shift toward cheaper models, Bloomberg reports.

“The sales on their existing devices must have fallen off a cliff,” said Matt Thornton, an Avian Securities LLC analyst in Boston who has a “neutral” rating on the stock. “They are getting hit by a combination of a stale portfolio and heated competition on devices.”

Another Canada-based analyst, National Bank Financial’s Kris Thompson said he’s “throwing in the towel for now” and can’t recommend the stock due to RIM’s “poor execution” on new devices. As recently as February, Thompson said ”We’d be buying RIM,” believing RIM could “steal” 1 million units per quarter from Nokia during Nokia’s transition to Microsoft’s operating system.

Charlie Wolf with Needham & Company said it’s the “Android onslaught” that has finally caught up with RIM. With the company not planning to introduce phones running BlackBerry OS 6.1 until the second quarter, the company has “little ammunition (other than price) to repel this invasion,” Wolf wrote.

Despite lowering his price target on shares of RIM from $63 to $50, JP Morgan financial analyst Rod Hall said he wouldn’t be changing his long term financial forecasts for the company.

Jefferies lowered its rating to “underperform” from “buy” and more than halved its price target to $35 from $80.

In addition, the stock was assaulted with price-target reductions from UBS, Susquehanna, Wedbush, Raymond James, Paradigm, and Barclays, who cut their targets to $60, $46, $55, $71, $72, and $77, respectively. Paradigm’s Barry Richards previously had one of the highest targets at $105.

Still, as the WSJ MarketBeat points out, not everyone is abandoning RIM: Citigroup’s Jim Suva is sticking with his “buy/high risk” call and provides seven reasons.

BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis reiterated a Sell rating and $45 price target on the stock: “We are not changing our SELL rating and are concerned on future downward revisions. That said– it is worth pointing out that the market the company serves is that rare combination of being large and fast growing. We keep an open mind to the fact that there could be traction with new products in the future but we expect that Playbook shipments may be closer to our 2M estimate than the 5-6M range.

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